George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Paterson, 20 February 1793

To William Paterson

Philadelphia February 20th 1793


The resignation of Mr Johnson, one of the Associate Judges, having occasioned a vacancy on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States,1 it is incumbent upon me to bring forward a suitable Character to fill that place. In performing this part of my duty, I think it necessary to select a person who is not only professionally qualified to discharge that important trust, but one who is known to the public and whose conduct meets their approbation.2

Under this impression, Sir, I have turned my thoughts upon you; and if you will permit me ⟨to nominate you for this office, I shall have the⟩ satisfaction to believe that our Country will be pleased with, and benefitted by the acquisition.

As an appointment to this office must be made before the close of the present Session of the Senate, which is near at hand; and would be convenient if it could be done before the rising of the Supreme Court, which is now sitting in this City,3 in order that the Judges may make their arrangements for the ensuing Circuits, it is necessary that I should know your determination as early as possible.4 With due Consideration I have the honor to be Sir, Your most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, NjP: GW Miscellaneous Manuscripts; Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW. Both the receiver’s copy and the draft are in the writing of Tobias Lear. The text in angle brackets is taken from the draft.

1For Thomas Johnson’s resignation, see Johnson to GW, 16 Jan. 1793, and note 2.

2For Attorney General Edmund Randolph’s recommendation of Paterson, see Randolph to GW, 18 Feb., and note 5.

3The words “in this City” are not included in either the draft or the letter-book copy of this letter.

4The Senate adjourned its second session on 4 Mar. (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 668). The Supreme Court adjourned its current term on 20 Feb. and did not reconvene until 5 Aug. 1793 (Marcus and Perry, Documentary History of the Supreme Court, description begins Maeva Marcus et al., eds. The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800. 8 vols. New York, 1985-2007. description ends 1:216–17). Paterson replied in a brief letter to GW of 25 Feb. that “On my return from an excursion into the country, I found your letter of the 20th of this month. I consent to be nominated for the office of an associate judge” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). GW received Paterson’s reply on 26 Feb. (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 69). For GW’s nomination of Paterson, see GW to U.S. Senate, 27 Feb. 1793.

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